As FG enforces new travel protocols
By Chioma Obinna, Lawani Mikairu, Dirisu Yakubu, Bashir Bello & Davis Ihemnachor
Following warnings by the World Health Organisation, WHO, of a high risk of the third wave of COVID-19 infections in Africa and Nigeria in particular, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, has raised the alarm that the non-adherence of Nigerians to the COVID-19 safety guidelines is threatening efforts geared towards preventing the third wave of coronavirus infections in the country.
Last week, the Indian variant of interest known as B.1.617, was confirmed in Kenya. The East African country’s health ministry had last Wednesday announced that the strain had been detected in five Indian nationals who arrived in the country before a ban on flights from India took effect.
Uganda was the first African country to report the variant. The Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) said the strain was discovered in travellers returning from India.
Reports also revealed that South Africa was on edge after 14 crew members of a ship from India docked in Durban, tested positive for COVID-19.
However, in a chat with Good Health Weekly, the NCDC Director-General, Dr Chikwe Iheakweazu, lamented that while the government is continuously strengthening the country’s response capacity, Nigerians were not adhering as expected to the required measures in place to prevent a surge in new cases.
He alerted that now that the Indian variant of interest is spreading, there is poor adherence to public health and social measures across the country. According to him, people are not wearing their face masks or practising physical distancing.
“We know from the experience in other countries that a large outbreak can quickly cripple the public health system.
“So, we appeal to all Nigerians to take collective responsibility in preventing a surge in cases in our country. Please wash your hands regularly, wear a face mask properly in public settings and practice physical,” he added.
Ihekweazu explained that the implementation of the guidelines on quarantine is being led by the Department of Port Health Services, with support from State Ministries of Health and other relevant government agencies noted that states are working very hard with support from the relevant Departments and Agencies, in implementing the measures that are in place to reduce the risk of an increase in COVID-19 cases in Nigeria.
“In order to prevent the use of fake COVID-19 results, we introduced a result verification platform for travellers together with Port Health Services and other relevant agencies. With this platform, it is easier to detect fake COVID-19 PCR test results.
“The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has mandated that individuals who present with fake results are prosecuted according to the law,”
On adherence to the isolation protocol, Ihekweazu said states like Lagos have announced the use of its EKOTELEMED to monitor travellers on arrival, in addition to deploying surveillance officers to enforce the isolation protocol. He further said that the responsibility also lies with citizens.
“We appeal to all travellers to adhere to the Nigerian travel protocol including self-isolation and post-arrival PCR tests. These measures are in place to protect you, your family and loved ones.”
On testing, he disclosed that COVID-19 tests have declined while the laboratories established across the country continue to maintain their operations.
“We have been working with states to raise demand for testing among members of the public. Additionally, we have been supporting the roll-out of approved Antigen-based Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDTs) in hospitals, at the recently concluded National Sports Festival and others. These are not as accurate as the PCR test, but provide a rapid means of detecting cases especially in large groups.
“We appeal to schools especially those with accommodation facilities, hospitals and workplaces to adopt the regular use of Ag-RDTs to ensure testing continues,” he avowed.
FG enforces new travel protocols at MMIA
Following directives from the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 that non-Nigerians and non-residents in Nigeria who had stayed in India, Brazil or Turkey two weeks prior to their trip to Nigeria should be denied entry, airlines and passengers from international routes have been complying with the new travel protocol.
Vanguard investigations reveal that the level and the intensity of screening has been intensified for inbound passengers arriving the international airport in Lagos, Abuja and Kano from the countries currently suffering from the second and third waves of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the Muritala Muhammed International Airport, MMIA, Lagos, the screening and surveillance of all arriving passengers has intensified even as the Port Health officials are giving special attention to passengers on flights from Brazil, India and Turkey.
Speaking with Vanguard on the new directives from the Presidential Steering Committee, the South West Regional Manager of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, Mrs Victoria Sina -Aba said there has been substantial compliance with the new directives by the Lagos airport officials responsible for screening passengers and flights.
She also said FAAN has put measures in place to ensure compliance by the various agencies at the airport, even as she said the airlines have been complying with the new directives.
“Yes, the airlines are complying with the new directives from the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19. Port Health is monitoring flights and passengers from these three countries and other countries in line with the new protocols, ” she noted.
When our correspondent visited the airport, Port Health officials were observed strictly enforcing the guidelines. All incoming passengers particularly from Brazil, India and Turkey, were thoroughly screened to ensure that they comply with the new COVID-19 protocols.
A passenger, who pleaded anonymity, told Vanguard that he came in from France, and that even though the new screening protocols are tough on passengers, it is a welcome development.
“It is in everybody’s interest and safety. We should curtail the spread of this dreaded virus. I pray Nigeria does not experience the third wave, ” he said.
Strict enforcement in Abuja airport
At the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, strict enforcement of the new travel protocols is also as airlines and passengers are demonstrating eagerness to comply.
Vanguard investigation showed that in addition to the compulsory use of face masks and routine hand sanitizing, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, FAAN and other relevant bodies are collaborating to ensure compliance with all COVID-19 related protocols.
In a chat with Vanguard, the Director of Press and Public Affairs, Federal Ministry of Aviation, Mr James Odaudu, said all international airlines are expected to comply, adding however that those found to have violated the directive would be punished appropriately.
“All airlines plying the routes are adequately informed and therefore, there is no need for any enforcement for them to comply. However, there are penalties for disobedience to a country’s civil aviation regulations.”
An NCAA official however assured that all international airlines operating at the airport are adhering strictly to the Provisional Quarantine Protocol earlier put in place by the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19.
He added that though the coronavirus is on its way “out of our lives”, passengers are still expected to test negative by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) from the country of exit four days (96 hours) before departure. Tests that were done more than 96 hours before departure are not valid.
“Passengers are required to fill in an online Health Declaration/Self-Reporting Form located on the Nigeria International Travel Portal which must be submitted online or printed for presentation on arrival. Information provided must be verifiable,” he stated.
Full compliance in Kano airport
In Kano, Vanguard gathered at the Malam Aminu Kano International Airport, MAKIA, that as international flights resumed, only flights by Ethiopian Airlines and Egypt Air have been arriving and taking off from the airport for travellers to and from Egypt and to the lesser Hajj. No flights from Europe or other destinations have been recorded.
At the airport, our correspondent observed some level of preparedness to ensure compliance to the COVID-19 protocols with social distancing, use of face masks, hand washing and hand sanitiser at specific points of the international wing of the airport.
As at the time our correspondent visited the airport, no flight had arrived or departed and there were no passengers around.
Port Harcourt airport gears up
Management of the International Wing of the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, Rivers State, said it is concluding arrangements to carry out a dry run of its facilities to resume flight operations soon.
The management said it resumed operations on the 5th of May but full operations would resume after test runs on the facility.
When Vanguard visited the facility on Monday, the offices were opened with cleaners carrying on their responsibilities.
Some senior staff members also resumed activities, but airline companies were yet to commence operations.
A source within the Operations Department of the Airport said: “Operations will resume at the International Wing of the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, Port Harcourt on the 18th of May when the first flight may arrive. Everybody is getting ready even the COVID-19 teams.
Mr. Kunle Akinbode, a senior Staff in the same Department said an official statement on the preparedness of the International Wing of the airport would be made soon.
He noted that the terminal was ready to receive flights from the 18th of May, adding that a dry-run on the facility would be carried out in the facility on the 17th.